Power Play: International Politics, Germany, South Africa and the FIFA World Cup

Image: Flickr, Mariya-Butd
Image: Flickr, Mariya-Butd

The decision to bid for and host a mega sport event is largely a political one.

Yet despite an increasing focus on socio-political implications, there is a pervasive notion that staging such an event will result in significant economic dividends for the host nation. Analysis shows that expectations are rarely met and reflects increasing concern about the potential for positive economic outcomes, particularly for the wider population. Despite this growing awareness, competition for the right to host mega events has increased, particularly among states outside traditional locations in the advanced economies of the West. Problematically, the resource implications involved in staging a successful event for these non-traditional hosts are likely to be higher. This could reduce the potential return and may also create additional internal strain.

The situation raises questions about whether states have similar reasons for engaging in the mega event circuit. Less-developed states may be more interested in goals that are politically and socially orientated, and may regard such goals as equally, if not more, important than perceived economic outcomes. The hosting of the two most recent Football World Cups by states at very different levels of development offers an opportunity to look at this possibility. The paper explores these wider motivations and how mega sport events may be used as tools of domestic and foreign policy. It also considers the extent to which mega sport events are viewed as effective resources for this purpose by countries seeking to enhance their role and influence in international affairs.

12 May 2011